This study is not a history of the cinema. It is a taxonomy, an attempt at the classification of images and signs. But this first volume has to content itself with determining the elements, and the elements of only one part of the classification.
We will frequently be referring to the American logician Peirce (1839-1914), because he established a general classification of images and signs, which is undoubtedly the most complete and the most varied. It can be compared with Linnaeus's classifications in natural history, or even more with Mendeleev's table in chemistry.
Another comparison is no less necessary. Bergson was writing Matter and Memory in 1896: it was the diagnosis of a crisis in psychology. Movement, as physical reality in the external world, and the image, as psychic reality in consciousness, could no longer be opposed. The Bergsonian discovery of a movement-image, and more profoundly, of a time-image, still retains such richness today that it is not certain that all its consequences have been drawn. Despite the rather overhasty critique of the cinema that Bergson produced shortly afterwards, nothing can prevent an encounter between the movement-image, as he considers it, and the cinematographic image.
In this first part, we will deal with the movement-image and its varieties. The time-image will be the subject of a second part. The great directors of the cinema may be compared, in our view, not merely with painters, architects and musicians, but also with thinkers. They think with movement-images and time-images instead of concepts. One cannot object by pointing to the vast proportion of rubbish in cinematographic production - it is no worse than anywhere else, although it does have unparalleled economic and industrial consequences. The great cinema directors are hence merely more vulnerable - it is infinitely easier to prevent them from doing their work. The history of the cinema is a long martyrology. Nevertheless, the cinema still forms part of art and part of thought, in the irreplaceable, autonomous forms which these directors were able to invent and get screened, in spite of everything.
We are not providing any reproductions as illustrations to our text, as it is in fact our text alone which aspires to be an illustration of the great films, of which each of us retains to a greater or lesser extent a memory, emotion or perception.
Was this article helpful?